This avocado and tomato salad is a favorite at Hona Azabu.

This avocado and tomato salad is a favorite at Hona Azabu. (Teri Weaver / S&S)

TOKYO — Hona Azabu is the kind of hip, neighborhood place where I’m pretty sure I could spot a few local celebrities, if I only knew enough about Japanese culture to recognize a TV star or a sumo wrestler when I saw one.

The restaurant is run by an energetic group of young men who celebrate each diner’s arrival, departure and even order for ice water with shouts, bows and sometimes sprints to the front of the restaurant just to say thanks for coming by.

It’s a fun welcome that’s hardly needed, given the delicious house specialty — tomato okonomiyaki.

Okonomiyaki is often described by Americans as a Japanese-style pancake. That’s a little like ordering a hamburger and expecting chopped ham. Okonomiyaki starts with pancake batter mixed with shredded cabbage, special sauce, a variety of meat and vegetable toppings. It’s fried on a griddle and then topped with a dark, sweetened soy sauce. Each one takes about 30 minutes to cook.

But you won’t starve while you wait. Hona Azabu also offers teppanyaki, food cooked on a hot plate at the table, and yakisoba, stir-fried noodles. Another specialty is omusoba, noodles wrapped in an omelet. The menu also includes several appetizers and salads.

On a recent visit, we ordered tomato okonomiyaki, omusoba, a tomato and avocado salad, Caesar salad, and a plate of freshly steamed vegetables in citrus-laced soy sauce.

While we ate, an entourage filled the VIP-looking couches at the front of the room. The center of attention was a man who definitely looked like he could hold his own at a sumo match.

But we didn’t need his celebrity — we found our own. Our waiter is an actor in Tokyo and proudly handed out his name cards.

See previous After Hours reviews here.

Hona Azabu, Tokyo

Hours: Daily, 5:30 p.m. to 2 a.m.

Prices: Plates range from 420 yen to 1,500 yen and are meant to be shared. Drinks range from 550 yen to 900 yen, though bottles of sake, shochu and wine are available.

Specialties: Okonomiyaki, Osaka-style. It’s a pancake-like dish with a batter filled with cabbage, pork, various vegetables, seafood or tomatoes. Teppenyaki and yakisoba are also available. Budget about 3,000 yen to 4,000 yen per person.

English menu: Yes

Dress: Casual

Clientele: The after-work crowd meets the pre-all-night crowd.

Location: 1F, 3-2-21 Motoazabu, Minato-ku, Tokyo. About a five-minute walk from Roppongi station. Take the exit for the Hyatt and head for TV Asahi Street. Walk away from Roppongi Street toward the Chinese embassy. The restaurant is on the left, about two blocks after the AM/PM convenience store.

Web site: go to and look for the coupon!

Phone: 03-5772-5433. Reservations recommended.

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